Okay, dancer costumes delivered, YJ article edited...I think I'm ready for extracurricular writing again. Thank you for your patience.
I've been thinking about feet. As yogis, don't we all. The choreographer I am working with commented on how she could identify all of her dancers just by looking at a picture of their feet. At first I thought that was remarkable, but then I realized that I could probably do the same thing with my students with fairly accurate results. Where do you start when checking how someone is grounding in balance poses? The feet...and with that you see who polishes, who trims, who has bunions, who has an extra-long second toe, etc etc. Very personal, these appendages.
Feet used to completely gross me out (still not crazy about dirty toenails), but now I find them rather amazing--as I've said before. This article in last week's NYT Science section confirmed my fascination with the mechanics of the foot. But it didn't answer a question I've been pondering for years...what happens to mobility and flexibility to the toes?
I often do this sequence early in a a session, to get people thinking about their toes:
[Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Lift all your toes at once, and feel the rest of the foot settle into your mat. Now lower just the big toes. Now lift the big toes and just lower the little toes. Now lower the big toes, but keep all the toes in between lifted. Is this easy or hard? You can help yourself a bit, by mimicking the actions of the toes with the fingers (I don't know why this helps, but it does). Now lower all toes, so that each one has its own space to settle and notice how much more solid your stance is.]
I've noticed that it's extremely difficult for most people to move their toes individually. Is it shoes? Muscle development? Toe length? Both my boys (2 and 5) can drum their toes as if playing the piano, but it seems that few people over the age of 10 can barely isolate the big toe from the rest. I can, but I've spent a lot of time working on it. Do toes have the potential of fingers at birth, but the neural pathways are never built?
What do you think/know? It seems that having flexible, isolate-able toe movement would be something to work for--better balance, stronger feet and ankles--but is it something that is lost forever? How do you get it back? I will watch the modern dancers at our next dress rehearsal, because I suspect they have to be expressive down to each bare toe...